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From LangelyElecteds.org: Reflection and New Beginnings

January 1st, 2012 at Sun, 1st, 2012 at 2:30 pm by Rene Neff

Ahh, its 2012! A New Year, and in Langley, a new beginning of sorts. Before I can start to think about the future though, I would like to reflect about the past. It continues to be an honor for me to serve on the Langley City Council especially because of the highly capable people I have had the privilege to work with these last 4 years. I hope to carry the banner of institutional knowledge forward for the next two years left on my term.

Each administration comes with dreams and aspirations and Paul Samuelson’s term was no different. In my mind Paul’s biggest accomplishments centered on the ability to mobilize people to get involved and volunteer. Paul set up commissions and formed citizen committees that empowered people to be a part of the community.

The first thing Paul jumped into was bringing together a coalition of people that lobbied Whidbey General Hospital to keep the Langley Clinic operating, which bought us another year.

The Parks and Open Space Commission, mentored by Kathleen Landel the mayor’s assistant, did outstanding work surveying the status quo, looking into possibilities and setting priorities for the City’s future parks and open spaces. The Neighbor-to-Neighbor and Emergency Preparedness Initiatives were also stewarded by Kathleen Landel at the bequest of the mayor. Kathleen and staff mobilized neighborhoods to cleanup, have community meetings and set up phone trees for emergencies so when cold weather hits those most vulnerable in our community are identified and taken care of. This was important and meaningful work and I really appreciate all the effort, time, patience and integrity Kathleen brought to City Hall. I will miss her.

Another thing Mayor Paul’s administration fostered was the Langley Gardens Project. Paul inspired and motivated Cathy Rooks and Kay Lagerquist to become citizen volunteers and spiff up the city gardens around town. The Garden Project called for donations to pay for the materials needed to create a beautiful new persona and garden at City Hall front and back. They gathered together a cadre of volunteers who have planted tons of bulbs that come up each spring to welcome visitors to our town with color and beauty. Another related coo was the wildly successful Community Garden Project that was also supported by Paul and this administration.

An initiative that had some teeth and effectiveness was the Mayor’s Council on Economic Development. Headed by then Councilman Russell Sparkman this group of citizens began to consider how to brand Langley. We adopted a new logo and started to focus on the experiences Langley has to offer. Experience Langley has spawned new businesses such as Langley’s Center for New Media, which brings hundreds of people here each year, and our new wine tasting offerings as well as the creation of more galleries. The new signage directing people to Langley happened because Paul and the Chamber worked diligently with the State and County governments to make it happen.

Another noteworthy accomplishment was the outstanding staff we have in place as the city moves forward. The people Paul hired and promoted were/are terrific! Early on our Public Works Dept. was asked to think creatively about how they could do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. The result is everyone in that dept. went thru a rigorous cross-training program and now they can all do each other’s job. We no longer need to hire outside contractors (much more costly) because our staff can do it all. Langley’s budget is operating in the black, quite an accomplishment given the economic times we are in. The staff, mayor and council all contributed to that effort.

Finally Langley’s Main Street Program was inspired and fostered by Mayor Paul. He encouraged members of the council and citizens to go to the state Main Street conventions so we could learn about this program and how it could benefit Langley. Four years later Langley Main Street is a reality and going strong. This year Langley Main Street sponsored our first ever 2nd St. Market, which was given much support and guidance by the staff and administration so it could get off the ground.

I want to appreciate the energy and enthusiasm that has been created around Langley during Paul Samuelson’s administration and thank him and all the council members who have worked so diligently during his term in office to make this city a good place to live and do business.

Bob Waterman has done so much for Langley during his time on the PAB and council. Thru Bob’s leadership, his love of history and his belief of its importance in Langley we now have in place the Historical Preservation Commission that will help us keep the look and feel everyone loves about Langley. I so value Bob’s thoughtful approach to problem solving and will miss his strength of leadership on the council. Besides Bob, Russell Sparkman and Fran Able, who I have great appreciation and respect for, have become friends and colleagues. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to serve with Robert Gilman whose undying ability to think creatively and globally, continues to inspire my imagination as I think about the future of our town. I may not have always agreed with council members and/or the mayor on important decisions. However, I have always felt each one came to the job with the utmost love for Langley and its citizens and the personal commitment to do their best and do what they and their constituents felt was right for Langley. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for your collective time, energy and courage. You will all be missed at city hall but hopefully not missing in Langley!

Looking forward to 2012 I am very excited to meet the new and returning council members and newly elected Mayor Kwarsick as we face the New Year together. Larry is a doer and looks forward to doing his best to serve Langley. His expertise and experience in government is welcome and I look forward to hearing more about what Larry wants to do! I would like to offer my wholehearted welcome to Larry as well as: Jim Sundberg, Hal Seligson, Doug Allderdice, Bruce Allen!

Now, lets roll up our sleeves and get to work! Happy New Year Langley, This new administration, staff and council will work together to make it a good year for all!

Respectfully Submitted by Rene Neff

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